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Some art photographers, particularly those associated with Aperturemagazine in the 1940s and 1950s, produced a type of modernist pictorialism;moody black and white images that abstracted their subjects and emphasisedthe expressive qualities of the camera. David Campany has argued that thisapproach was concerned to separate photography from everyday, vernacularsnapshots. This is why they chose to use black and white rather than colour;produced images that were expressive rather than descriptive; and often usedunusual angles or framing to create abstract effects.

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Roland Barthes pointed out that photography in its earliest years depictedremarkable things, but over time things became remarkable simply becausethey were photographed. The development of a medium that allowed fora quick and accurate reproduction of the world meant the creation, for thefirst time in history, of a visual record of all aspects of life. Photographs offera visual knowledge of the world outside direct experience. This knowledgeis abstracted and second-hand, but it nonetheless creates a strong sense ofrecognition. Visual representations became increasingly important in thedissemination of knowledge; the endless reproducibility of the photographmade it a central feature of modern, spectacular, consumer society.

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One way in which the meaning of the photograph is fixed and madeclear is through the use of the caption. Walter Benjamin described thecaption as an imperative directive to photographic meaning that createdsignposts for the viewer. Another paired set of images, Incident, 1993 andBorder Incident, 1994, by the Irish artist Willie Doherty, demonstrates theway our understanding of photographs is informed by the context in whichthey are viewed and how language supplements the image in the form oftitle and/or caption. Both images are large, detailed, close-ups of burntoutcars abandoned in the landscape. The straight on camera angle in thephotographs adds to the sense that we are being presented with a factualdescription. Both works are given a political charge because of the use of thewords 'border' and 'incident' in the titles, immediately evoking the violenceof Northern Ireland's recent past and suggesting that we are looking at theaftermath of conflict. However, one of the two images depicts a car that hassimply been illegally dumped. Typically for Doherty's work the signpostsoffered by the titles misdirect rather than guide.

The field of photojournalism is most vulnerable to doubts aboutphotography's relationship to reality. For many the most important roleof the camera has been its ability to 'bear witness' to the major eventsof history. Photojournalism certainly seems less prestigious today than inits heyday from the 1930s to the 1960s, when magazines such as Life andVu were dedicated to the narration of current events through the picturestory. However, the decline in photojournalism has less to do with doubtsabout photographic truth, than with the emergence of new media andforums for the circulation of news images. Many of the images of the recent'Arab Spring' revolts were taken by protestors and ordinary citizens, whothen circulated the images on the Internet. Such developments offer thepossibility of more democratic documentary practices. In the past thefigure of the photojournalist or documentary photographer suggested aheroic figure (by virtue of both skill and bravery) who occupied a superiorposition relative to his/her subjects, often presented as passive victims ofevents. Digital technologies seem to offer the possibility that such victims ofcircumstance can achieve agency through recording their own trauma.

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Photography has been seen as a documentary tool, allowing for realisticdepictions of the world, and as a creative practice, now a central mediumwithin the fine arts. The interchange between these opposing views of themedium – factual and imaginative, everyday life and 'high' culture – hascreated a rich field of image production.

In the early twentieth century, with the emergence of avant-gardegroups such as Dada, Soviet-Constructivism and Surrealism, there was aradical change in approaches to photography as art. These groups weredrawn to photography's modernity and, rather than relating it to painting,they sought a new aesthetic based on the operations of the camera. Avantgardephotography tended to employ a sharp focus and often depictedmodern subjects, such as Albert Renger-Patzsch's images of industrially producedcommodities or László Moholy-Nagy's images of the Eiffel Tower.

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In 1922, in a letter to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Marcel Duchampdeclared: 'You know exactly how I feel about photography. I would like to seeit make people despise painting until something else will make photographyunbearable.' Today the camera seems more firmly embedded in visual culturethan ever; every mundane event or passing sight instantly captured andshared in an age of 'smartphones' and social networking sites. The ubiquityof the photographic image has perhaps created an oppressive presence ineveryday life. The colonisation of every aspect of life by photography is not arecent development; however the invention of photography in the late 1830squickly led to a dramatic increase in the production and circulation of images.

Essay On Photography In 300 Words - Essay On Photography In 300 Words

Aleksandr Rodchenko felt that photography allowed artists to moveaway from the 'old point of view' which he associated with bourgeois 'bellybutton shots' and argued that the camera enabled less conventional views ofthe world, such as views from above and below (bird's eye and worm's eyeviewpoints), extreme close-ups and cropping. Photography was also seenas an exciting extension to natural vision, recording sights unavailable to thehuman eye. Microphotography using powerful magnifying lenses, the use ofseries of cameras to capture motion and X-rays, all extended natural vision,creating what Walter Benjamin referred to as 'the optical unconcious'. Whileavant-garde photographers were interested in photography's connection toreality, they were also concerned to dismantle and subvert the reality of thephotograph. Techniques such as photomontage, photograms, doubling andsolarisation emphasised the photograph's status as a made image and itsdistance from the real.

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In contrast, other art photographers engaged in a 'documentarystyle', often focusing on urban life in street photography. John Szarkowski'sinfluential catalogue, The Photographer's Eye, was centred around thesepractices by artists who were united by an interest in the vernacular snapshot,using its tropes to give their artfully composed images a careless, everydayquality. As with earlier avant-garde ideas, this approach to photographyattempted a codification of the medium, based on qualities inherent to thecamera. Szarkowski argued that one of the central features of the camera is theway it causes us to see the world as an image (the thing itself), framed, isolatedand ultimately separated from the world by the act of photographing (theframe). The resulting image is separated from the flow of time, and causes anattentive form of viewing, often focusing on compelling details.

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